All-or-None Law

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all-or-none law

[¦ȯl ər ¦nən ‚lȯ]
The principle that transmission of a nerve impulse is either at full strength or not at all.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

All-or-None Law


in physiology, the fact that excitable tissue (nervous and muscular) apparently will not respond at all to a stimulus if it is inadequate (subthreshold) or will respond maximally if the stimulus is of threshold magnitude. A further increase in the force of the stimulus will not alter the magnitude or duration of the tissue response. The all-or-none law was derived from a broad interpretation of the data obtained by H. Bowditch (USA, 1871) in stimulating the cardiac ventricle of a frog. Further research demonstrated the relativity of the law (more precisely, principle): a stimulus close to threshold force provokes a local response in the area stimulated; a stimulus of more than threshold force provokes a response, recorded from its action potential, that may in-crease, depending on the condition of the tissue stimulated.


Nasonov, D. N. “Mestnaia reaktsiia, zakon ’vse ili nichego’ i avtomaticheskaia deiatel’nost’.” Izv. AN SSSR: Seriia biologicheskaia, 1948, no. 4, pp. 381-392.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.